ERB: In Focus

ERB in Focus

Robert Zeuschner


The most common ERB reprintings are those from Grosset & Dunlap. G&D (as they are affectionately known among collectors) reprinted forty-five different ERB titles from 1927 to 1967 or 1968. These are a real pain for collectors, because each and every G&D reprint uses the identical first edition printing plates for the copyright page; on the copyright page they only have the McClurg first edition information. Every ERB collector has encountered someone selling a 1967 reprinting of "Tarzan of Apes" under the mistaken impression that it was a genuine 1914 first edition, because the copyright page has only the 1914 copyright data.

For those who want to read ERB in hardback form, the Grosset & Dunlap reprints are the easiest to obtain (but they are now running over $100 in really good dust jackets). The difficulty is that many book stores are fooled by the G&D copyright pages and assume that they've got a first edition; thus the prices can be unreasonably high. A beginning collector needs to know how to differentiate the firsts from the reprints, and the early reprints from the later reprints to avoid overspending for hardback copies of ERB books.

It would be easy if G&D simply reprinted each title one time only. Then the collector could know that every G&D was the first reprinting. But this is not the case. G&D reprinted ERB titles continuously from 1927 to 1967, and there are major differences among these reprints from decade to decade. But all have the same McClurg copyright pages. No G&D reprint ever has the original date of G&D publication; only the McClurg first edition date appears on the G&D copyright pages.

The G&D reprintings can be grouped into at least five different phases. In the first phase, from 1927 to 1935, the books were basically just reprintings of the McClurgs and Burts (except for "Tarzan of the Apes" which was reset to 392 pages). They retained numerous interior plates, most by the great J. Allen St. John. The earliest reprintings have all the interior art, and later reprintings decrease the number of plates. The great majority of these are done in a bright red cloth cover with black lettering (there is an early reprinting of the "Cave Girl" in a blue cloth cover that is identical in texture and color to the McClurg, but has Grosset & Dunlap's name on the bottom of the spine; later copies of this title are with the standard red cloth color).

In phase two, between 1935 and 1940, for financial reasons G&D eliminated almost all interior illustrations. Many of these have colors applied to the tops of the pages, such as yellow and green.

In phase three, during world war II, G&D eliminated all interior illustrations and reprinted the books in very cheap editions, referred to as the "Madison Square" editions. All the covers are in the same standard maroon color. The paper was high in acid content, so it turns brown and brittle over time and gives the appearance of being much older than it actually is. There is a reference to "wartime conditions" on the title page and on the dust jacket. The first printing of these is 1943, and there seem to be some variations published in 1944 and possibly 1945. If you find a G&D with a dust jacket, most of the time it will be one of these "Madison Square" editions. I have personally met several dealers who read the reference to "wartime conditions" and believe it is a reference to World War I (instead of WW II), and because the pages are so brown and brittle they are certain that they've got a supremely valuable first edition, instead of a fairly common and not very valuable reprint.

In phase four, G&D began reprinting just nine of the Tarzan titles in a series referred to as the "Series for Boys and Girls." These have been reset with new title pages, covers, and dust jacket illustrations. The first printings of this series have cloth covers and maps for the endpapers. Later reprintings omit the maps, and the covers are no longer cloth, but are now paper.

In phase five, G&D eliminated the dust jackets and printed the dust jacket illustration directly to the book's cover. This practice began in 1967.

For more detailed information to separate out years within each major group or phase, you will need to obtain a bibliography. Henry Hardy Heins' "A Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs" (1965) has more information. James Bergen's bibliography also has much of the detail. Finally, Robert Zeuschner's Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Exhaustive Scholar's and Collector's Descriptive Bibliography (McFarland, 1996) provides additional information for each Grosset & Dunlap reprinting and tries to seperate out differences within each phase.

Happy hunting!